I have been using a Black Armoury HEMA jacket since late summer 2016, and I have grown to love the collar solution. It is my go-to jacket to take with me when travelling to events.
This review: motivation and transparency
I bought this jacket for my own use in August 2016. I have been wearing it at events and training since then, and as of 2019, still wear it from time to time. I want to share my thoughts about a jacket that served me well for several years.
At the same time as I bought this jacket for my own use, the Academy of Historical Arts online shop began to distribute these jackets in the UK. Although I could have been influenced by the desire to sell more of the jackets, I only try to stock items in our shop that I’m willing to wear myself for sparring and competition. Our shop no longer keeps these jackets in stock due to the fluctuations of currency and supply and demand.
(Edit: this “motivation” section was added on the 9th of March 2019, as part of an effort to improve the transparency of the various reviews on this website.)
Level of padding
The jacket is well-padded on the arms, although it has quite light padding across the torso. I would not particular enjoy wearing this jacket when participating in a lesson focusing on thrusts to the torso, but I find it perfectly adequate for sparring. I have used the jacket in tournaments in Europe and Australia, and found it adequate for these events, although it may not be quite well enough padded for very hard-hitting competitions such as those at Swordfish or Longpoint.
The jacket has not yet been certified for penetration resistance, as it is relatively new to the market and Black Armoury are focusing their efforts on raising awareness of the jacket and their company in general. Hopefully future versions of the jacket will receive certification for penetration resistance.
Cut and mobility
The cut of the jacket is designed to give mobility in and around the shoulders, allowing the wearer to hold a sword above the head quite comfortably. Holding positions such as overhead Vom Tag and the crossed-wrist Ochs for the longsword, or the hanging guard or St. George’s guard for broadsword or sabre, are not a problem. The jacket barely rides upward from the hips when the hands are raised above the head; it stays in place very well.
This jacket is slightly longer than the SPES “Axel Pettersson” jacket, and covers the hips, along with the pelvis to the front and the tailbone to the rear. The jacket comes to a point at the rear, which looks a little strange, but does give some padding over the tailbone, which is a nice feature.
Stiffness and breaking in period
The jacket is a little stiff and requires just a little breaking in when you start using it, but it should be moving quite comfortably within your first training session.
Zips and fastenings
The zip is quite functional and adequate in terms of size and durability.
It is located on the front of the jacket, and jackets may now be customsed to have the zip on the left or the right, as you prefer. The jacket overlaps when closed, giving some protection to the zip against thrusts or strikes. It is quite easy to put the jacket on or to take it off.
The collar is the main selling point for this jacket, as far as I am concerned. There is considerable padding at the sides and the back of the neck, and the padding sticks up quite far at the back, giving excellent protection for the spine, more so than in any other jacket I have seen so far.
At the front, the collar hangs down, and has a pair of flaps going out to the sides. You put on the jacket, put on your mask and slip the bib down inside the jacket, then fold up the collar over and around the bib and fasten the flaps place with Velcro. This makes it impossible for a thrust to come up underneath the bib of the mask. This is something that has happened to me several times while wearing other jackets (or when wearing just a t-shirt); it is something I am keen to avoid happening again, and it is simply impossible for this to happen in the Black Armoury jacket.
The padding on the front of the collar is excellent, and it comes with a generous “blade catcher” as well. Although it is never “comfortable” to take a thrust to the throat, this jacket does an excellent job at removing discomfort and keeping the throat safe from thrusts.
The collar is wide enough to admit the bib of your mask, and also for wearing a rigid gorget should you choose to add even more protection for the throat.
The jacket is quite warm, but much less so than the SPES “Axel Pettersson” jacket, probably due mainly to the lighter padding around the torso.
The jacket is quite light, especially compared to the SPES “Axel Pettersson” jacket, probably due mainly to the lighter padding around the torso. It weighs about 1.8 to 2.5 kg, depending on size, making it quite convenient for packing into a bag for travelling to events by plane.
The jacket looks quite modern and professional, although it has certain design elements that are very reminiscent of medieval gambesons, so it is a bit of a “halfway house” in terms of style. Nonetheless, this jacket does not look out of placein a gathering of fencers wearing modern-looking jackets.
The jacket is quite expensive, at around £210-£240 depending on size, colour, and customisations. It is a bit more expensive than the SPES “Axel Pettersson” jacket, but I personally believe that the collar solution makes it all worthwhile. Having been stabbed in the throat under my mask bib several times, I am willing to pay a premium price for a jacket that makes such occurrences impossible.
I recommend the Black Armoury jacket highly. It is a good jacket for normal practice and sparring, and it works well for competitions, although the light padding around the torso means that it may not be quite right for harder-hitting competitions or clubs. The collar solution is worth its weight in gold, and for this reason, the Black Armoury is my go-to jacket for most training these days.
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Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.